Five Things one should know about the Dogon

  • Dominant Mask

The Dogon (popln. 400-800k) have many masks, but the most popular may be the Kanaga mask . This is one mask used in the traditional Dama ceremony, where the spirit of the dead is lead away from the village of the living through rituals and dances. The Dogon festivals are a popular Mali tourist destination, (see ‘Making a Kanaga mask’, by clicking the following link),

  • Country/Location

Central plateau region of Mali, south of theNiger bend near the city of Bandiagara in the Mopti region. (Wikipedia). The Bandiagara cliffs are a geographical marvel.

Old Tellem dwellings in background and new Dogon dwelling in foreground

  • Something Religous/Socially interesting

In the 1930s it was reported that the Dogon had advanced knowledge of the Sirius star system. The only problem was that ‘Sirius B’ is an invisible star and was only photographed in 1970. Dogon legend tells of a visit by an extraterrestrial race (the Nommos)

Dogon : Granary door lock.

  • Something Historical

Archaeological evidence suggests men have lived on the cliffs for over 2,000 years. Cultures whose relics have been dated are the pygmy Toloy people in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC, and later, between the 11th and 15th centuries, the Tellem who lived in caves cut into the cliffs where they left many artifacts still unearthed by local people. They were pushed out around 1490 by the Dogons from the south-west (or south-east) perhaps fleeing slave raids by Songhai, Fulani and Mossi tribesmen. They came in four clans, the Dyon, Ono, Arou and Domno and spread over the plateau, the escarpment and the plains of the Séno-Gondo, living on top of or at the foot of the cliffs. They divided into small village communities, each member having a village surname shared by every inhabitant. Dogon buildings are a unique architecture of sculptural mud-built huts, altars, distinctive tapering granaries for each sex, each with a pointed cap of thatch, and meeting houses (Diakite, 1988; Hollyman & van Beek, 2001).

  • Something Culturally different

Although polygamy is practiced most men have one wife. Formally, wives only join their husband’s household after the birth of their first child. Women may leave their husbands early in their marriage, before the birth of their first child. After having children, divorce is a rare and serious matter, and it requires the participation of the whole village. (Wikipedia)

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